Washington budget up 12 percent

Town meeting March 22
By Beth A. Birmingham | Mar 07, 2014
Photo by: Beth A. Birmingham

Washington — Despite projected revenues of $362,500, Washington residents will be asked to raise $38,273 more in fiscal year 2014 for an increase of 11.84 percent.

The total municipal budget came in at $723,906 and the offset of the revenues projected brings the town responsibility to $361,406 compared to last year's $323,133.

If approved, this increase would add $75 to taxpayer's bills for properties valued at $150,000 — as the mil rate will increase from $13.20 to $13.70 per $1,000 of assessed value. The town also anticipates a 2 percent increase in school costs, according to selectmen and budget committee projections.

At the time of the budget committee meeting, the level of state revenue sharing was not known, as is the case with all towns.

This has the potential to significantly impact the budget, as selectmen anticipate the town receiving $40,000 in revenue sharing funds — approximately 11 percent of the town's anticipated revenue.

Last year, Washington received $65,000 or 18 percent of anticipated revenue. However, expected cuts in the state revenue sharing will require an increase in local funding to maintain the current level of service, according to the town report.

The most significant impact on the budget is the 26 percent increase in salaries, stipends, employee health insurance and payroll expenses.

"These increases were questioned by the committee," according to the annual report, which added selectmen explained that several factors entered into their recommendation.

"It is important to retain experienced people," selectmen said in the report. They also said the town's salaries lag behind other municipalities, and doing more with less requires creative thinking — which comes from experience.

The following recommendations were made:

— 2 percent increased compensation for town clerk/tax collector/treasurer

— $500 increase for registrar of voters

— $1,250 increase for fire chief

— $750 increase for assistant fire chief

— $3,750 firefighter stipend to be divided among those firefighters who meet a predetermined level of proficiency

The increases in the fire department came with the sentiment that "at a time when many towns are losing their volunteer fire departments, Washington still has one that is dedicated, competent, and active ... an asset worth supporting."

What would appear to be a $7,000 increase in compensation for the Code Enforcement Officer is actually a decision by the selectmen to eliminate what was a "bookkeeping nightmare" last year, they said. The CEO was compensated $8,000 in 2013 plus half of the land use-related fees collected or approximately $7,000 — thus compensation remains about the same.

Also of note is the addition of $13,440 for health insurance, which selectmen indicated is a necessity given the fact it is becoming "more difficult to hire high quality, experienced employees without offering a health benefit."

And finally, the $13,782 increase in maintenance of town roads follows the plan set in place last year for the town to repave approximately two miles of roads per year due to their deteriorating conditions. This year's plan is to repave Mountain Road.

The town has just over 20 miles of paved road which is recommended to be repaved every 10 years — with a projected annual cost of $180,000.

Washington will hold voting on town affairs Friday, March 21, from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. in the Bryant Room of the Gibbs Library.

Other than town articles to be voted on, incumbents Duane Vigue and Guy Bourrie run uncontested in their respective races for selectman and school board. Each seeking a three-year term.

The annual town meeting will take place Saturday, March 22, at 10 a.m. at Prescott Memorial School.

Courier Publications reporter Beth A. Birmingham can be reached at 594-4401 ext. 125 or via email at bbirmingham@courierpublicationsllc.com.


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